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Cool Yule Tools 2012

TRAVEL: Gift ideas for the out-and-about

Headsets and other accessories for the traveler or talker

By , Network World
November 19, 2012 08:09 AM ET

Network World - It's always been difficult to figure out where to put the hands-free Bluetooth headset in the Cool Yule Tools holiday gift guide. Does it belong in its own category or do we combine them into something else?

This year, we felt that most use cases of the headset are when people are traveling - whether in a car, walking down the street or out-and-about on a business trip. We also added some other talk-related devices as well as road warrior tools.

Holiday gift guide 2012

A quick guide to Network World's favorite gifts

Note: Products are listed in no particular order or preference. Prices are also rounded-up estimates from either the product's website or Amazon.com. Better deals may be offered online during the holiday season.

Earloomz CL 500 Bluetooth Headset (Star Wars model)

$18

Bluetooth hands-free headsets come and go every year, some get fancier with features like voice notification, voice activation, stereo speakers for both ears. But sometimes you want a simple headset with a simple purpose - a quick fit, easy pairing and enough technology where you can hear the person on the other end of the call, and they can hear you. Oh yeah, and a Star Wars design.

Earloomz Star Wars Bluetooth headset

Earloomz makes several headsets with the CL 500 designation, but our personal favorite is the Star Wars model. Why get boring silver or black when you can have the Dark Lord of the Sith on the side of your head? That was the initial appeal for me to try out this headset, but fortunately I also found a good Bluetooth headset as well.

The headset fits onto your ear with a plastic earloop (the unit comes with different sizes and loops to let you find the perfect fit). There's only one button - it basically powers the unit on and off. For pairing, you just have to hold the button down for a longer period (basically, the instruction manual tells you what to do).

The headset is good-not-great for making phone calls - no fancy noise-cancellation features, either. A bonus I discovered is that you can use the headset to listen to music - while it only goes in one ear, it's a nice alternative to having to find your wired headphones.

In addition to the Star Wars styles, they have other brands and designs - check out the Earloomz site for more options. At less than $20, this can be a great stocking stuffer - who'd ever think that a hands-free headset would be a stocking stuffer?

- Keith Shaw

Plantronics Marque 2 Bluetooth headset (model M165)

$60

I have often found Bluetooth to be an odd tool. Walking around with a miniature extension of your phone sticking out of your ear chatting away and basically looking like you're talking to yourself - well it's just not my thing. This is exactly why I agreed to test the new Plantronics Marque 2.

Plantronics Marque 2 headset

I would have liked to record this old-fashioned girl's daily struggles with Bluetooth, but that would have made this a full feature and not a review. To give you some idea, on my first day I forgot to turn it off and then misplaced it while driving home. My son continued to call and I could not answer my phone! Overall I can understand the draw to the hands-free benefit of a Bluetooth headset, though I found myself yelling "Answer, Answer" at least three times before it would pick-up a call (the Marque 2 features voice recognition for answering or ignoring calls without having to press a button).

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